Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Animation and Gaming Ohio 2009: A Guest's Experience

Well, here I am delivering the Convention Report--two days after the fact. This weekend, I had the pleasure and privilege of attending Animation and Gaming Ohio as a guest. As the second convention I've ever attended, it was still a very new and odd experience. Some people live for these things, to the point where conventions are like a second home. To me, they still feel like stepping into another world, an alternate reality.

This being an animation and gaming convention, comics and cartooning received very little direct focus: anime and video games took center stage. I talked to several people who read webcomics, but found very few enthusiasts: most were either casual browsers who didn't really follow specific titles regularly, or gaming enthusiasts who read easily-recognized titles like PA and CAD. Still, people enjoyed talking about webcomics, and passion is contagious. If you're enthusiastic about something, then as long as the other person has even a passing interest, they'll generally perk right up and get into the conversation too.

A number of cool things happened at the convention, and I got to meet several cool people. Here are some highlights.

My Panel, "The Harsh Truth about Webcomics"
On Saturday morning at 9 AM, I delivered a panel on the challenges of monetizing a webcomic. Five people showed up! I'd planned to speak to a larger crowd, so I ended up chucking my notes and simply talking about webcomics with the handful of panel attendees. We had a good conversation, and as we started bouncing ideas off each other, we had some valuable insights into turning online cartooning into a paying job. For example--why do you never see the online equivalent of a "funny pages" gathering several comic strips together in a single place? Would people subscribe to such a service?
For the follow-up panel on Sunday afternoon, we scrapped the premise of discussing webcomics at all and ended up talking about how Japan is weird. Not that the United States isn't also weird. But man, Japan is pretty weird.

Meeting DM Ashura
Bill Shillito, better known as DM Ashura, is a talented electronic musician whose music has been featured in various mixes of Dance Dance Revolution. He's also a very cool guy to hang out with. He and I talked about the value of a public space for gaming and what DDR has done to keep the arcade scene alive; I listened to his music and grooved out at the Saturday night rave that he hosted; we randomly sang bits of "Still Alive" at the closing ceremonies. All in all, it was cool to meet this guy, even if we only briefly discussed webcomics. Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.

Signing Autographs with Steve Blum
I have to admit, I came into this event with only a vague idea of who Steve Blum is. He's done the voices for Spike Spiegel, Wolverine, and a host of other characters: which means that he is a big name in the voice acting industry. And DM Ashura and I had the express pleasure of signing autographs with him.
There was a line practically out the door, and almost immediately I could see why he was so popular with the fans. He was extremely personable, posing for photos with fans, signing personalized autographs on anything and everything they requested, doing voices on command. One guy had a friend whose sore throat kept him from attending the convention; this guy called up the friend and had Steve Blum talk to him as Wolverine. "So I hear you're out with a sore throat. I know how that feels, bub--no fun at all. So listen, take lots of antibiotics, get plenty of rest..." He's really an incredible guy.
Most people came for his autograph, but DM Ashura and I signed a few ourselves. I made a few doodles along with my John Hancock. One girl was cosplaying as Zach from Final Fantasy VII, and I got to draw a cartoon of Zach on her buster sword.

In summary, the con was pretty incredible. I met some very cool and talented people, I got to be a guest judge at a Rock Band Concert, I drew a bunch of ninjas and ate a bunch of delicious free food and played retro video games in the gaming room, and I killed a man with a trident.

Be sure to tune in again on Friday, when it's back to talking about webcomics as usual. See you then!


Tom Dell'Aringa said...

You mean, say an online comics funny page like this?


Nah, doesn't work.

Jackson said...

Why not?

speearr said...

How is it you always get invited to all these stuff????????

Also, a page gathering various webcomics together kinda takes the creators of said webcomics out of the equation. The personal interaction between cartoonist and reader has always been a plus-point of webcomics, and removing that appeal just reduces the experience to something akin to reading a dull newspaper alone with no one to share your opinions with.